Cogeco explores options for TQS net

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TORONTO -- Canadian cable operator and broadcaster Cogeco is looking at "strategic options" for Television Quatre Saisons, ITS Quebec-based private French-language network.

Cogeco chairman Louis Audet told financial analysts in a conference call Monday that TQS' two main shareholders -- Cogeco with its 60% stake and CTVglobemedia with a 40% minority stake -- have retained CIBC World Markets "to assist them in assessing the strategic options available to them in connection with TQS."

Audet said the review process comes as the Quebec TV advertising market faces "choppy waters."

But he refused to speculate on when CIBC World Markets would report back on TQS' future or on the possibility that Cogeco and CTVglobemedia could eventually sell the French-language TV network.

TQS faces stiff competition in Quebec from TV market leaders TVA Group and Radio-Canada, the public broadcaster.

News on TQS' future came as Montreal-based Cogeco recorded sharply higher fiscal fourth-quarter earnings and revenue from its Canadian and Portuguese cable operations.

Cogeco saw earnings for the three months ending Aug. 31 nearly triple to CAN$30.3 million ($29.4 million), up from a profit a year ago of CAN$10.3 million.

The company's revenue jumped 35% to CAN$269.3 million ($261.5 million), compared with CAN$199.3 million last year.

Cogeco said its cable revenue during the latest quarter rose 40% to CAN$244.3 million ($237.2 million) as it continued to integrate Cabovisao, its newly acquired cable operation in Portugal.

Cogeco also has its eye on cable system acquisitions in Eastern Europe as it diversifies away from the Canadian market, where it is the country's fourth-largest cable operator.
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